I’m extremely happy to say that Alphonse, there’s Mud on the Ceiling! has been shortlisted for Oscar’s Book Prize! The prize celebrates the best pre-school book of the year and is awarded in memory of Oscar Ashton; the winner will be announced on Monday 25th of May. There are five other brilliant books on the shortlist and you can read more about them, Oscar’s Book Prize and Oscar at www.oscarsbookprize.co.uk/.
I’m very happy that my picture book about a small monster learning to read, I Do Not Like Books Anymore! has been chosen by Empathy Lab for their 2020 Read for Empathy Collection, intended as “a diverse collection of books for primary and secondary children, all carefully selected by an expert panel to improve children’s empathy skills.” Founded in response to research suggesting that reading fiction can build our capacity for empathy, Empathy Lab describes empathic concern as “a powerful motivator for helping others, a force for social justice.” Whoop to that.
I loved making I Do Not Like Books Anymore! because the subject was so important to me – and because it’s always fun to spend time with Natalie and Alphonse. But I also felt quite a lot of anxiety about getting it right, and about how it would be received. Natalie’s struggles with reading, and the ways she and Alphonse find of reclaiming books and stories, were largely based on my own experiences as a child. Things I learnt as a Teaching Assistant and while working for an early-years education charity fed into the book too but I’m (obviously) no expert.
I think all that worrying about making A MASSIVE PEDAGOGICAL/DEVELOPMENTAL ERROR has made it extra-lovely that people have responded so positively to the story. The support of wonderful organisations like Empathy Lab and Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) means a lot – as do all the messages I’ve received from individual teachers, librarians and parents. I especially love it when children make their own books in response to the story, as Natalie and Alphonse do: like these ones shared by teacher @today_we_read on instagram or those I’ve been lucky enough to see develop at workshops and events (below is a very excellent book being created at Heffers in Cambridge in 2018).
There are foldable books to download and fill with stories on my Free stuff page, based on the titles of Natalie and Alphonse’s books – but I’m just as excited if children’s stories have nothing to do with Tomato And The Chair or The Magic Pigeon (although I would love to find out what happens in Whale Goes Shopping).
Well that was a lie. I had a monstrously good time at the launch for I DO NOT LIKE BOOKS ANYMORE! at Gosh Comics on 10th May – so many of my favourite people in one room and oh my giddy aunt THE BISCUITS!!
The biscuits were made by the completely amazing Emily Wilkinson who has been baking my books since before they were books (see previous biscuitmania). One of my favourite things was seeing photos of children clutching monster biscuits at breakfast time – very impressive of their parents to get them all the way home without even nibbling their ears (the BISCUITS’ I mean!).
I’m so hugely grateful to everyone who came and made it such a lovely evening, and to Gosh! for being grand hosts again (and just the most brilliant shop). And I was extremely touched by the things Deirdre and Lizzie, Walker Books Publisher and my Editor, said – I’m very very lucky to work with them.
Many thanks to Emma O’Donovan and Penny Dixie for the photos.
I made these two gifs to celebrate the publication of my fourth picture book, I DO NOT LIKE BOOKS ANYMORE! This is Natalie and Alphonse’s second adventure, following ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO! and is all about what happens when Natalie starts learning to read, and how she and Alphonse manage to carry on enjoying books and stories in their own way.
I only started making gifs again a couple of months ago – you can find a few others on my Instagram. Alphonse in his fairy costume comes from a part of the book where he and Natalie dress up to play “stories they remembered or made up.”
If you’d like to know more about the book and how I made it, have a look at Walker Books’ Instagram which I took over for publication week. I also have a couple of events coming up soon, and am busy making window displays – this one was at Jaffe and Neale, a bookshop-cafe in Chipping Norton, and it will be moving to their Stow shop in a few weeks too.
I was amazed, and very happy, to hear that I DO NOT LIKE BOOKS ANYMORE! is shortlisted for the Association of Illustrators’ World Illustration Awards. Just being included in the exhibition at Somerset House is a bit too exciting.
It’s especially exciting as the book isn’t even out yet: Walker will publish I DO NOT LIKE BOOKS ANYMORE! on May 3rd and there’ll be a book launch at Gosh! on the 10th. This is Natalie and Alphonse’s second adventure, following ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO! and I’ve just finished the artwork for their third escapade – so I’ve got to know these monsters very well.
I DO NOT LIKE BOOKS ANYMORE! is about what happens when Natalie struggles with learning to read – and how she and Alphonse find their own solution (involving an ambitious elephant and a caterpillar driving a truck). I’ll be sharing more about the book, especially on Instagram, in the run-up to publication.